The art deco cocktail bar Grandpa Johnson’s, which opened in the heart of Hollywood in 2014 and closed with little warning last year, was named in honor of owner Johnny Zander’s grandfather. It seems only fitting, then, that the bar taking its place is also a retro tribute to a beloved relative from a bygone era.
Tramp Stramp Granny’s, set to open at 1638 N. Cahuenga Blvd. next month pending approval of its liquor license, pays homage to co-owner Mia Swier’s grandmother. “She was a saucy lady and had a lot of funny sayings, so it’s kind of getting back to her memory,” says Swier, who describes the bar’s vibe as “your grandpa’s gin joint mixed with your favorite ’80s bar.”
Adding to the old-timey vibes, the centerpiece of Tramp Stamp Granny’s will be a piano where performers will gather nightly to play live music, with a heavy emphasis on show tunes, according to business partner Danny Massare. “It’s sort of like a rowdy, sing-along piano bar,” he says, comparing it to the Prohibition-era New York City piano bar Marie’s Crisis. “The more people singing, the more people dancing, the better.”
Massare envisions Tramp Stamp Granny’s as a raucous outpost of the musical theater community here in L.A., which means — at the risk of fulfilling one of L.A.'s biggest stereotypes — the bartenders slinging fancy cocktails such as the Tramp are just as likely to be theater actors or production crew as the musicians and singers belting out show tunes on the main floor. The bar's location, just a block from the Hollywood Walk of Fame — with the Pantages Theater in one direction and Grauman’s Chinese in the other — seems ideal for attracting talent, not to mention a rowdy crowd.
Tramp Stamp Granny’s also will feature a residency for musicians, with some “pretty big-name acts coming in the beginning,” says Swier, who is staying mum on the details. She says the shows won’t necessarily be ticketed but will be more like intimate parties spread through word-of-mouth, at least during the soft opening. After that, some events might have a cover charge on a case-by-case basis. Swier herself is a musician and singer, better known as Mia Von Glitz, lead singer of the rock band Mad Moon Riot. She also sang vocals for the L.A. punk band PeroXXXidal, who released their first single last year.
Swier, a New York transplant, has been heavily involved in the music scene for even longer than she’s been fronting rock bands. Her family operates the Bowery Ballroom and the Mercury Lounge, two of New York’s most celebrated live-music venues. Her father, architect Brian Swier, and uncle, concert promoter and venue proprietor Michael Swier, were part of the team that opened the Teragram Ballroom, which primarily caters to indie rock bands, in L.A.’s Westlake neighborhood in May 2015. The Swier brothers and their partners are on the verge of opening another new music venue, the Moroccan Lounge, in the downtown L.A. Arts District.
Tramp Stamp Granny’s, housed in the space that was formerly Beauty Bar before it was Grandpa Johnson's, will help fill the void left by the aptly named Piano Bar, the intimate music joint from Johnny and Mark Houston — the brothers behind Harvard & Stone, No Vacancy, La Descarga and others — that closed on nearby Selma Avenue roughly a year ago. The neighborhood, with its abundance of DJ-driven nightclubs offering bottle service, could no doubt benefit from a new live-music spot — just don’t expect it to be anything like the Teragram Ballroom, Swier says.
“This is going to be quite a departure from that now, because it’s more of a show-tuney, gather-around-the-piano, everybody-sing type thing,” she says. “It’s been a dream of mine for my whole life.”